60th anniversary of water fluoridation to be celebrated during Michigan Dental Association Meeting in Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell will preside over a special ceremony on Thursday, May 12 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of community water fluoridation, as Grand Rapids was the first city in the country to fluoridate its public water supply in 1945.

The ceremony will begin at 4 p.m. at the site of the city's water fluoridation monument on the river at the end of Louis and Campau streets in downtown Grand Rapids. Also speaking will be State Rep. Jerry Kooiman (R- Grand Rapids), Michigan Dental Association (MDA) President-Elect Dr. Josef Kolling and representatives of the local West Michigan Dental Society.

In 1945 a bold public health experiment was launched in Grand Rapids, when it became the first city in the world to fluoridate its public water supply. The "Grand Rapids Study" demonstrated that the rate of dental cavities dropped 60 percent as a result of drinking fluoridated water.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called community water fluoridation one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century. Today, 86.2 percent of Michigan's population on public water systems enjoys the benefits of fluoridated water.

According to the Journal of Dental Research, the use of fluoride was primarily responsible for savings of approximately $40 billion in oral care delivery in the United States. Scientific research studies have time and time again proven community water fluoridation to be the safest, most effective and most economical way to prevent tooth decay in people of all ages.

The average cost to fluoridate a water supply is about 75 cents a year per person. Over a lifetime, that is less than the cost of having one cavity treated.

"It's pretty remarkable to think that the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay all started right here in Grand Rapids," said Steve Dater, DDS, a general dentist from Rockford, and treasurer of the MDA.

Not all organizations are joining in the community water fluoridation celebration, however. For a differing viewpoint on water fluoridation, visit http://www.fluoridealert.org/news/2258.html.

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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